In 2005, 60 percent of U.S. high schools offered Advanced Placement (AP) courses (The College Board 2005). Students who take AP courses in high school are eligible to take AP exams and may earn college credit for scores above a minimum threshold. Currently, 34 AP exams are offered across 19 subject areas. Students who complete AP courses may be better prepared for college than their peers, and could potentially complete their degrees in a shorter time period.
Between 1999 and 2005, the total number of students taking AP exams increased by 75 percent, from 686,000 to 1,197,000. The number of minority students taking AP exams increased by 81 percent, while the number of White students taking the exams increased by 71 percent. Among minority students taking the exams, Hispanics experienced the largest increase (137 percent), followed by Blacks (118 percent), and American Indians/Alaska Natives (80 percent).
Across all AP exams, Asian students had the highest mean grade (3.05), followed by White (2.99), Hispanic (2.52), American Indian/Alaska Native (2.45), and Black (2.01) students.21 The most frequently taken AP exams include calculus AB, English literature and composition, and U.S. history (The College Board 2005). Asian students had the highest mean grades for calculus AB (3.11) and U.S. history (2.85). White students had the highest mean grade on English literature and composition (3.06), followed by Asian (2.95), American Indian/Alaska Native (2.44), and Hispanic (2.28) students. Black students had the lowest mean grade for calculus AB (1.95), English literature and composition (2.04), and U.S. history (1.87).
All racial/ethnic groups shown had higher mean grades on the English literature and composition examination than on U.S. history and calculus AB examinations, with the exception of Asian students who had their highest mean grade in calculus AB.